MALCOLM & MARIE – Review by Susan Granger

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After winning an Emmy as a stressed-out teenage addict on HBO’s Euphoria, 24-year-old Zendaya was ready to go to work on the second season – but then the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home.

So she decided to make a movie. Actually, she was approached by Sam Levinson, creator of Euphoria. He was working on a script about a rising director named Malcolm and his much-younger girl-friend Marie, who get into a long argument late at night after the Los Angeles premiere of his new movie.

He’s euphoric with success, while she’s deeply resentful, having dutifully served as his muse, yet he forgot to thank her.

“I promise you, nothing productive is going to be said tonight,” she informs us early on – and she’s right.

Not only did he write the script and direct but Sam Levinson, son of famed director Barry Levinson (Diner), cast two Black actors: John David Washington as Malcolm and Zenaya as Marie.

Embellishing the script as he went along, Levinson made the movie in 14 days in the Jonathan Feldman-designed glass Caterpillar house, a private residence on the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, California.

Earning producers credit, Levinson, Zendaya and Washington did the $2.5 million financing with their own funds. The actors did their own hair/make-up and supplied the costumes, while cinematographer Marcell Rev stylishly utilized high-contrast 35mm black-and-white film.

Problem is: these privileged characters are controlling, yet co-dependent narcissists, and their relationship is obviously toxic. Their over-written monologues seem endless and, worse yet, pointless.

Incensed by a white, female critic’s Los Angeles Times review, boastful Malcolm rants against being called the ‘next’ Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins or John Singleton when he yearns to be compared with William Wyler, while Marie accuses him of “spiritual theft.”

FYI: William Wyler is the only director credited with three Best Picture Oscar winners: Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Ben-Hur.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Malcolm & Marie is a frustrating, fatiguing 5 – a flashy Netflix performance piece.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.